Zachary F. Murguia Burton

Visiting Assistant Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences


Earth and Climate Sciences

Carnegie Science Hall, Room 223a


My research explores three key themes: (1) the impacts of climate change vs. tectonics on ocean and sedimentary basin depositional systems, (2) the formation and destabilization of marine methane hydrate systems (with implications for the oceanic carbon cycle and for energy resources), and (3) studies of harsh desert environments on Earth to better understand aqueous alteration and mineral evolution on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. I apply diverse analytical methods in the field, in the lab, via computational modeling, via remote sensing, and via syntheses and meta-analyses of published data and literature, and fund my research programs with support from NASA, NSF, USDOE, the National Park Service, industry partnerships, professional organization grants (including AAPG, GSA, Clay Minerals Society, Geological Society of London, Gordon Research Conferences), and others. I have active research projects in Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys, Spain’s Canary Islands, Nevada and Utah’s Great Basin National Heritage Area, California’s Mojave Desert, and the U.S. Pacific Northwest. My most recent fieldwork (Dec. 2023–Jan. 2024) investigated volcanic and coastal landscapes in the Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, and El Hierro islands, while my summer field season will kick off in Aotearoa New Zealand (May 2024).

Before Bates, I was a NASA-funded Postdoctoral Fellow with the University of Idaho and Adjunct Lecturer with Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability (2022–2023). I also spent a year as an environmental scientist with Exponent (2021), conducting fieldwork in Alaska. During my Ph.D. at Stanford, I was a Research Fellow with the U.S. Department of Energy (2016–2020) and Research Assistant with the SETI Institute and NASA Astrobiology Institute (2017–2020), and I lived and conducted research in India, New Zealand, Texas, and across California. Before that, I attended Bowdoin College as a Pell Grant recipient, during which time I used monazite petrochronology to reconstruct early Appalachian mountain-building, volunteered on an organic goat cheese farm in southern Chile, and worked as a substitute teacher in Germany. Currently, I’m Editorial Board Member to Frontiers in Geochemistry, to the New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, and to Nature Portfolio’s Scientific Reports, as well as Associate Editor to AIPG’s The Professional Geologist. I am a Scientific Affiliate of the SETI Institute, and former Publications Board Member to American Chemical Society’s Northeastern Section.

I am passionate about advancing diversity and inclusion in the Earth sciences, academia, and our broader society. I’m a 2023 SACNAS PLI NDiSTEM Leadership Fellow, and I volunteer for organizations including SACNAS, GeoLatinas, and SSERD-India. Since 2017, I’ve been especially involved in promoting inclusion around mental health. I created and lead The Manic Monologues, an award-winning play comprising mental health stories performed across four continents and 12 U.S. states (including performances Off West End and featuring Broadway veterans and Tony Award winners). I serve as committee co-chair to Yale’s Latino Recovery Colectivo and serve as board member to batyr-Australia, CAPMH-Kenya, Columbia-WHO Center for Global Mental Health, Harvard Business Review, and others.


If you’re a student at Bates (or anywhere!) and are interested in mentorship for geoscience research, for community service and mental health advocacy, or for career and professional development, please don’t hesitate to send me an email. I’d love to hear from you and explore working together.



Ph.D., Stanford University, Geological & Environmental Sciences, 2021

A.B., Bowdoin College, Earth & Oceanographic Science and German, 2015



Winter 2024 at Bates, I’m teaching EACS 223: Earth Materials (with Lab) and a new upper-level research-intensive course, EACS 303: Sedimentary Basins and Global Change. I’m also developing and will be teaching a new 2024 off-campus Short Term field course in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Fall 2023 at Bates, I taught EACS 104: Plate Tectonics and Hazards (with Lab). Before that, I taught or served as teaching assistant for courses at Stanford (three undergrad- and grad-level courses), Bowdoin (two senior research courses), and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity in Germany (various middle school and high school courses).


Selected Publications

Peer-reviewed scientific research (since 2020):

Burton, Z. F. M., McHargue, T. R., & Graham, S. A. (IN REVISION). Global Eocene-Oligocene boundary unconformity in clastic sedimentary basins. Earth-Science Reviews. [invited review article]

Foerder, A. B., Englert, P. A. J., Bishop, J. L., Koeberl, C., Burton, Z. F. M., Patel, S., & Gibson, E. K. (IN PRESS). Don Juan Basin, Antarctica: A chemically-altering environment with martian analog potential. American Mineralogist.

Burton, Z. F. M., Bishop, J. L., Englert, P. A. J., Szynkiewicz, A., Koeberl, C., Dera, P., McKenzie, W., & Gibson, E. K. (2023). A shallow salt pond analog for aqueous alteration on ancient Mars: Spectroscopy, mineralogy, and geochemistry of sediments from Antarctica’s Dry Valleys. American Mineralogist 108: 1017–1031.

Burton, Z. F. M. & Dafov, L. N. (2023). Salt diapir-driven recycling of gas hydrate. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 24: e2022GC010704.

Burton, Z. F. M., McHargue, T. R., Kremer, C. H., Bloch, R. B., Gooley, J. T., Jaikla, C., Harrington, J., & Graham, S. A. (2023). Peak Cenozoic warmth enabled deep-sea sand deposition. Scientific Reports 13: 1276.

Burton, Z. F. M. (2022). Sediment organic contents required for gas hydrate formation: A survey of published basin and hydrocarbon system models. Fuels 3: 580–587. [invited contribution]

Burton, Z. F. M. & Dafov, L. N. (2022). Testing the sediment organic contents required for biogenic gas hydrate formation: Insights from synthetic 3-D basin and hydrocarbon system modelling. Fuels 3: 555–562. [invited contribution]

Bishop, J. L., Yeşilbaş, M., Hinman, N. W., Burton, Z. F. M., Englert, P. A. J., Toner, J. D., McEwen, A. S., Gulick, V. C., Gibson, E. K., & Koeberl, C. (2021). Martian subsurface cryosalt expansion and collapse as trigger for landslides. Science Advances 7: eabe4459.

Burton, Z. F. M., Kroeger, K., Hosford Scheirer, A., Seol, Y., Burgreen-Chan, B., & Graham, S. A. (2020). Tectonic uplift destabilizes subsea gas hydrate: A model example from Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand. Geophysical Research Letters 47: e2020GL087150.

Jacobson, M. Z., von Krauland, A.-K., Burton, Z. F. M., Coughlin, S., Jaeggli, C., Nelli, D., Nelson, A., Shu, Y., Smith, M., Tan, C., Wood, C., & Wood, K. (2020). Transitioning all energy in 74 metropolitan areas, including 30 megacities, to 100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS). Energies 13: 4934.


Promoting inclusion around mental health:

Redmond, K. (with Burton, Z. F. M.). (2023). Three tips for staying grounded in graduate school. The SPS Observer (The Society of Physics Students quarterly magazine). [invited contribution]

Burton, Z. F. M. & Cao, X. E. (2022). Navigating mental health challenges in graduate school. Nature Reviews Materials 7: 421–423.

Burton, Z. F. M. (2022). Fostering mentally healthier workplaces via disability advocacy: COVID-era strategies and successes. Harvard Bill of Health (The Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School).

Nicholas, E. M. (interviewing Burton, Z. F. M.). (2021). Q&A: Why discuss mental health in academia? Stanford Earth Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Series. May 2021.

Burton, Z. F. M. (2021). Finance ministries can catalyze post-COVID-19 mental health action. United for Global Mental Health. April 2021. [invited contribution]

Burton, Z. F. M., Sale, J., Rowe, O., & Sridhar, P. (2021). Demonstrating the Case for Mental Health Investment to Finance Ministers: A Guide for Campaigners and Advocates. Global Mental Health Action Network (white paper for the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings). April 2021.

Sale, J., Burton, Z. F. M., & Iemmi, V. (2020). The critical need for finance to unlock better mental health. Devex (op-ed for the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group). October 2020.


Student professional development and education:

Cao, X. E.*, Burton, Z. F. M.*, & Wang, M. (2024). Advancing equitable climate education. Matter 7: 9–12. * = co-first authors

Burton, Z. F. M.* & Cao, X. E.* (2022). Let graduate students do internships. Matter 5: 4100–4104.

Burton, Z. F. M. (2022). Life as a (geo)chemist, so far – Part two. The Nucleus (ACS), v. 100, no. 5. [invited contribution]

Burton, Z. F. M. (2021). Life as a (geo)chemist, so far – Part one. The Nucleus (ACS), v. 100, no. 4. [invited contribution]

C, Nikhitha (written by Burton, Z. F. M.). (2020). The next space generation: Inspiring 50,000 students (and counting) from India, Uganda, the Philippines, and beyond. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. September 2020. [invited contribution]

Burton, Z. F. M. (2020). Expanding your expertise through strategic volunteering. The Professional Geologist (AIPG), v. 57.

Burton, Z. F. M. (2019). Getting the most out of LinkedIn as a student/young professional. The Professional Geologist (AIPG), v. 56.


Published poems:

Author. “Substance.” The Perch (Yale University & College of Letters at Wesleyan University). IN PRESS, March 2024.

Coauthor, with former Wisconsin Poet Laureate & Founding Director of Indigenous Nations Poets Kimberly Blaeser, and others. “Dear Sky, Dear Blue Planet.” The AGU Community Poem (American Geophysical Union & Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University). April 2023.

Author. “Martian Yardangs.” The Wall Street Journal. March 2019.

Author. “Seriously Xeric Salts.” 2018 LPSC STEAM Winners Gallery (The 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference). March 2018.